Facet Joint Pain
Lots Of Ouch From Little Structures

Facet Joint Pain is common in certain health issues like whiplash neck injury, sports injury, car crash injury, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.

When facet joints hurt it's rarely an ache, usually it's a significant pain especially with movement.

A bad massage therapist, when working on the neck, can cause significant pain (over the next several days) if they work on the facet joint too much (or as is usually the case, don't even know they're working on a facet joint).



How Did I Get Facet Joint Pain?

There are many different ways to get facet joint pain, but they essentially all into two categories:

  • impact injury as from car crash or sports impact
  • result of slow 'degeneration' which is caused by the tendonitis dynamic


Impact Injury

When you are in a car accident, your body is suddenly and forcefully moved in directions and range of motions that it is not strong enough to withstand.

Thus the places where joints articulate, including facet joints on the spine, can get smashed together with great pressure/force.

Aside from any actual damage, this forceful meeting can result in a Bone Bruise.   And bone bruises are painful and long lasting.


When playing football and some big dude smashes into you...your neck snaps around, and your lumbar and thoracic spine are violently forced to move. 

Again, that forced movement can compress joints and facet joints so much that at best a bone bruise develops (which hurts) or towards the worse end of the spectrum....facet structures can be damaged.

  • Joint lining can be torn
  • the bone can get fractures


'Degeneration'

Your doctors will tell you that joint 'degeneration' is due to 'aging'.  

Maybe they'll be a bit more technical and blame it on inflammation, 'breakdown', and slow loss of cartilage in the joints. 

A favorite diagnosis is 'degenerative joint disease'.

But it's not a disease and joint degeneration definitely isn't due to aging.  Sure we all get old and break down eventually, but the vast bulk of joint 'degeneration' is due to an osteoarthritis dynamic.

And osteoarthritis is a function of long term tendonitis dynamic, that consists of:

  • Too tight muscle and connective tissue
  • Process of Inflammation
  • Nutritional insufficiency

See:  What Is Tendonitis?


Over time, that all works to decrease function and increase negative factors on the facet joint itself.  

  1. inflammation in the joint causes pain
  2. pain causes tightness that compresses the joint
  3. compression of the joint causes irritation and/or wear and tear damage
  4. irritation and damage causes inflammation
  5. inflammation and pain cause more inflammation and pain


For cervical facet joint pain, see:  Cervical Osteoarthritis 

For more about Osteoarthritis in general, see:  What Is Osteoarthritis?



Facet Joint Pain Symptoms And Locations

Facet joints exist on vertebra.

Facet joints hurt specifically where there at, and send out referred pain.

'Referred' pain means pain that shows up at locations OTHER than where the problem is.


  • Neck - Cervical Facet Joints:  Aside from sharp specific pain right at the facet joint, pain can be felt from head, neck, shoulder, and/or arm.


  • Upper Back - Thoracic Facet Joints: Aside from sharp specific pain right at the facet joint, pain can be felt from upper back, chest, and sometimes arm.


  • Lower Back - Lumbar Facet Joints:  Aside from sharp specific pain right at the facet joint, pain can be felt from lower back, hip, butt, and/or back of the upper leg.


General facet joint symptoms consist of:

  • persistent pain
  • increase of pain with movement
  • more pain when arching backwards compared to bending forwards
  • reduced range of motion (due to pain)
  • upon touch, very tender tissue over the facet joint itself (muscle, etc)
  • radiating pain (referred pain as described above)


WARNING:  Symptoms of facet joint pain can mimic other and/or medical issues, such as:

  • spinal fracture
  • infection
  • ruptured or herniated disc
  • torn spinal muscle
  • specifically for lumbar facet joints, intra-abdominal problem


It's bad enough that facet joint pain can mimic these serious medical issues.  Even worse, is when you don't have a facet joint issue but get diagnosed as having such because your doctor missed the existence of the real problem.

Which in the case of infection or abdominal problem can be life threatening.


Understanding Facet Joint Pain

Other names for facet joint pain is:

  • Arthritis (inflammation of a joint)
  • Osteoarthritis (wear and tear type of arthritis)
  • Degenerative joint disease (diagnosis for joint degeneration process)
  • Spondylosis (a term for any spinal degneration but mostly used as another name for osteoarthritis)
  • Arthropathy (collective term for any disease of a joint)
  • Arthrosis (another name for osteoarthritis)


Doctors tend to consider each of these diagnoses as separate entities.

But if you look into each of those, they basically are all the same thing.  

Many people in pain look forward to a diagnosis.  But diagnoses don't fix anything.

A person could get any one of the above diagnoses and be no closer to getting pain relief that they were before getting diagnosed.

See: What Is Arthritis?


Understanding Is The Path To Treatment

My point is, it's important to understand exactly what is causing the facet joint pain.

'Degeneration' is accurate but vague and unhelpful. Doctors think degeneration, but really it's just a symptom of a larger problem.

'Arthritis' is also accurate, but also vague and unhelpful. Doctors think arthritis is the problem, but really it's just a symptom of a larger dynamic.

'Inflammation' is accurate, but doctors don't seem to understand that inflammation is a symptom of the larger dysfuntion.


Understand the Pain Causing Dynamic

Pain shows up for a reason.

Joints don't magically get inflammed.

Osteoarthritis wear and tear doesn't just happen because of 'time' or 'aging'.

Facet joints don't just start hurting.


The start hurting for a reason.  Multiple reasons, actually.

Ultimately, it's a function of:


  1. Due to impact or a long slow progression, muscle and connective tissue get tight.
  2. Facet joint gets compressed (if not fractured)
  3. Joint lining gets inflamed, eventually damaged.
  4. Pain.
  5. Repeat 1-4 as pain causes tightness and inflammation.

It doesn't help that your body is short on nutrition.  If it wasn't, it will soon be as your hurt (because inflammation and tightness and pain eat up various necessary nutrition required to help you get out of inflammation, tightness, and pain).

Whether it starts with impact or not, if you have painful facet joint(s), you have a Pain Causing Dynamic. And until you get rid of that you won't fix the problem causing the facet joint pain.

See:  Pain Causing Dynamic

See:  What Causes Arthritis?





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